Rebcake (rebcake) wrote,

Girls in Movies, Monster and Otherwise

I think I'm starting to come up with my own way of evaluating movies, which starts with the Bechdel Test (thanks, Alison!), uses a variation on[personal profile] hello_spikey's "man candy" criteria, and adds a few more items. It doesn't necessarily correlate with how much I like a film. It isn't an indication of overall quality. It's very individual, and if a movie doesn't have at least five of these things, it's probably not a movie that I'm going to be excited about seeing:

1. Does it pass the Bechdel Test? 1 point
2. Does it show positive female relationships? 1 point
3. Does it show female characters being smart? 1 point
4. Does it show female characters being awesome AND kind? 1 point
5. Are there any gratuitous female gaze shots of scantily clad pretty men? 1 point
6. Was there any non-bashing gay content? 1 point
7. Was I at any point pleasantly surprised or amused? 1 point

I like genre, but I'm not a fan of the straight-up horror movie genre. However there are some movies with those elements that strike my fancy. In the past week I've seen Kick Ass 2 which is about one kind of horror, and Warm Bodies, which is about an entirely different kind. I have thoughts. They aren't deep, but a few of them are superficially spoilery. My evaluations below.

Warm Bodies was pretty much great, much to my surprise. It's the cutest zombie apocalypse story ever! It's got this lovely way of approaching zombieism as equivalent to the state of being an adolescent: tongue-tied, awkward, smelly, confused. The voice over is absolutely crucial and makes for lovely, understated comedy. There is one gruesome scene toward the beginning, but after that it's all action, friendship, light comedy, and even lighter romance. Just in case you didn't figure out what story you're watching, there's a balcony scene that drives the point home. It might pass the Bechdel test, but only just, since 80% of the film is dialog free. Shows positive female relationships and smart girls being awesome and kind. No real man candy (though there was one squandered opportunity), no gay content, but very funny and unexpected. 5 points

Kick Ass 2 is absolutely ridiculous. That's not the worst thing a film can be, IMO. But this movie that is NOT for everybody. Its approach to violence is hyper, which for some people is cartoonish and for others is incredibly offensive. Perhaps both. You know yourself. I don't mind it, and worship Hit Girl, in all her incarnations, but be aware that this is a movie that makes neither apology nor sense. It does pass the Bechdel Test, in spades, but only because of the many female antagonists of both the "super hero" and "high school" variety. DOES NOT show positive female relationships but DOES show smart girls being awesome, and even somewhat kind at times. At one point the titular character takes off his shirt, at which point we overheard the girls behind us saying, "gawd DAMN" and "yessssss", so man candy points all around. Funny (in the blackest sense) and one extremely inoffensive and forgettable gay character for half marks. 5-1/2 points

I just got back from my annual Gal's Weekend with a bunch of pals from college, for which I am the designated film fest curator. That means that I show up with a dozen choices and the group whittles it down to maybe two for Saturday night viewing. It came down to Bride & Prejudice and Whip It this year.

Bride & Prejudice, no surprise, follows a familiar and beloved story, plus so very pretty! It's not my favorite adaptation or anything, and that's down to an uninspiring Darcy, though Bel Raj (Bingley) and his sister have moxie. I'm not positive that it actually passes the Bechdel test, because almost all the conversations are about marriage in some way or another, which means they are pretty much about men. There are loads of positive female relationships, though, and the female characters are probably smart, though not one of them talks about their career or anything. I'm not sure that having the Lizzie character, Lalita, defending India in very general terms really counts. There is definite kindness in places though, and a few strokes of awesome. There is a bit of man candy, but also a blatant anti-candy moment, which I sort of want to give extra credit for, even if it's really, really unattractive. I mean, c'mon, a guy in an American flag g-string? It shows chutzpah, at least. Minimal violence. Gay content is limited to Indian drag queens, but they are fabulous, if unnamed, so full marks. Not all that surprising, except visually, but that counts. 5 points

Whip It is a delightful trifle about alt-roller derby. It's directed by Drew Barrymore, who knows how to have a good time. My favorite bit is when the protagonist, Bliss, is doing a bit of shopping and the local roller derby girls skate in to drop off some fliers while the standard "love theme" music plays in the background. That's the main point. She falls in love. With an activity that she can do with awesome women. It's brilliant. The intervening slings and arrows are the standard stuff, but the roller derby parts are the heart of it all. It totally owns the Bechdel Test, shows many, many positive female relationships, has smart girls, awesome girls, girls who climb on rocks. Kindness galore, along with a bit of bad behavior for spice. Not as much man candy as there could have been, but their coach wears cut off jean shorts everywhere, so I'll give half marks. Any gay content was too subtle for me to pick up on, which makes it far too subtle. Sport-type violence. It was funny and pleasantly surprising at every lap around the track. 5-1/2 points

I was hoping to get the gals to watch alien invasion tale Attack the Block, which was possibly my favorite movie last year, but the hostess has even less stomach for horror/monster/scary movies than I, so it was not to be. Too bad, because if there was ever a film that I didn't not think would meet my criteria, it was this one, and I can admit I was wrong. It delivers on all counts except for gay content. The thing I like best is the way the viewer's loyalties switch every few minutes, and you have no idea who you are going to be rooting for until the very end. Teenaged boys are the main protagonists, and very well-drawn, but the teenaged girls they hang with are so accurate that I am in awe. The man candy was scant, though there some bulging biceps and toward the end one of the characters takes off his fuzzy hat. All the teenaged girls I know swoon at that point, so it might as well be a strip tease. There's lots of monster-movie violence and gore, though it's telegraphed well enough that you can cover your eyes in time, I think. Needless to say, funny and surprising. 6 points

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Tags: movieland
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